Mozambique aviation authorities on Thursday displayed the suspected debris from missing Malaysian flight MH370 that was found this week by an American amateur investigator looking for the plane.
The president of Mozambique’s Civil Aviation Institute, Joao de Abreu, held up the triangular piece to show to journalists, but insisted that speculation it belonged to the Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 was premature.
“It’s very difficult for any crash investigator to confirm which type of plane that piece belongs to,” de Abreu said.
The words “No Step” were printed along one side of the flat grey fragment that was discovered by Blaine Gibson near the tourist island of Benguerra off the east African coast.
De Abreu said Malaysia and Australia, which have led the search for the plane, had been informed about the debris, but no decision had been made about where it would be taken.
“We will follow the diplomatic channels to facilitate what’s necessary from our side,” he said.
Mr Gibson told an NBC affiliate station based in Seattle that he had chartered a boat to reach the remote sandbank where ocean debris was known to wash up.
“I urge everybody to be cautious and to not just jump to the conclusion that it’s from MH370,” Gibson told the station. “Wait until the professionals make the determination.”
Malaysian Transport Minister Liow Tiong Lai said there was a “high probability” that the debris was from a Boeing 777.
Meanwhile, Australian and Malaysian officials were moving to retrieve and examine the suspected aircraft wreckage found on the east African coast to quickly determine whether it came from missing flight MH370, Malaysia’s transport minister said Thursday.
“From the pictures shown, there is high probability the plane debris is from a Boeing 777 plane,” Malaysian Transport Minister Liow Tiong Lai told reporters in Kuala Lumpur.
While cautioning that this needed to be verified, his comments appeared to be firmer than the “high possibility” he had mentioned on Wednesday.
MH370, which carried 239 passengers and crew when it vanished March 8, 2014 on an overnight flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing, was a Boeing 777.
Transport Minister Darren Chester of Australia, which is leading a vast oceanic search for wreckage, said the debris would eventually be transferred to Australia where it would be examined by officials and experts, including from Boeing.
The painstaking two-year search effort has scoured the seabed in the remote Indian Ocean, where the plane is believed to have gone down.
But nothing has been found and the search could cease by mid-year.
If confirmed to be from MH370, the debris would mark only the second shred of physical evidence in one of aviation’s great mysteries.
Last July, a wing fragment was found washed ashore on the Indian Ocean island of Reunion and later confirmed to be from MH370.
That marked the first proof that the plane had met a violent end, but otherwise shed little light on what caused the disaster.